Robert Wechsler, director of CityEthics.org, has just released a new intro to local government ethics called “Local Government Ethics Programs in a Nutshell”, in which he has distilled an 800-page digital book and years of blog posts into a 27-page resource for public officials, journalists and others interested in good government. Here’s a bit out of the intro:
Government ethics is not about being “good” or “a person of integrity.” It’s not something officials learn at home, at school, or in their house of worship. In fact, conduct that is praiseworthy outside of government, such as helping a family member get a job or returning a favor one has been given, is considered wrong in a government context…It is about preserving institutional rather than personal integrity. Government ethics decision-making should be just another professional routine.
We also sometimes talk about ethics in the public domain as public morality vs. private morality, and I favor an approach that deals with what to do when conflicts occur, not if. Read the rest of this entry
*Update: Final list of candidates is here.*
Michael Franckowiak – Genoa Park Board
Veronica Bruhl – Kaneland Board of Education
Rick Goken – Shabbona Township Trustee
Virginia E. Toppe – Malta Library Trustee
Charles G. Rose – DeKalb Regional Board of Education
Antonio C. Amaya – Genoa Park Board
In the article, “DeKalb County Certifies Preliminary Ballot,” the county clerk stated that there are about six people who have filed as write-in candidates in April’s Consolidated Election so far. As of 9:30 a.m. today there were indeed exactly six:
We could see additional declarations of write-in campaigns this week because the deadline is Thursday, after which the final list of candidates will be posted at dekalbclerk.com.
While I’m at it I’d like to recognize John Acardo and the Office of the DeKalb County Clerk & Recorder for their high standards of professionalism and customer service. Nobody answers requests for information faster than they do, the communication is very good and I like how I am treated.
DeKalb County put its new website online this week.
The county says the overhaul was not made in response to the Illinois Policy Institute’s recent grade of D-, but has been in the works for about a year.
DeKalb County has put lots online for quite some time, but finding it or even getting a real sense of what all is there could be a problem. Read the rest of this entry
***Update 1:30 p.m.: Their lips say no, but the timing feels like there’s some piling on.***
**Update 9:45 a.m.: Here’s the latest put up by RRStar. I do NOT agree that WCFPD has a credibility problem (stated at the end of the article). Instead, I’d argue that any credibility problem is Randy Olson’s alone at this point and that WCFPD made all the right moves to set right a trust-busting situation that Olson created.**
To summarize: Former Winnebago Forest Preserve District president Randy Olson created and staffed a new public safety job even though the majority of the commission disapproved of his decisions.
Here is what the other commissioners did about it:
It took some time — and for Olson to actually make the hire — for the board to pick up the additional vote it needed to demote him. The fifth commissioner professed herself a good friend of his but busted him anyway. (Olson still serves, just not as president. It will be interesting to see what the voters say if he runs again.)
Well done, #wcfpd!
*Update 10:45 p.m.: Olson is out as district president! The story is here. But that’s not all! Find bonus Chuck Sweeney here with free shipping!*
The Rockford Register Star used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain e-mails to and from Winnebago Forest Preserve district president Randy Olson that trace the process of creating a job for a person he evidently likes very much.
Randy Olson plotted for months to give Roscoe cop Theresa Rawaillot a well-paid forest preserve police job, a trail of emails shows.
And when his plans hit roadblocks along the way, he ultimately decided to change the way forest preserves are policed.
The job creation efforts involved bulldozing the district’s executive director as well as ignoring the majority of its board of commissioners.
It may even have violated the Open Meetings Act, and thanks to a complaint made by an concerned citizen, the Attorney General is planning to investigate the allegation.
President Olson remains unrepentant.
Olson has said that commissioners have focused too much on the process to bring Rawaillot on board, which distracts from the goal: to save the district money and improve police presence in the preserves.
At least four of the commissioners do not agree that the ends justify the means, and I’ll bet they hate getting stuck with a police officer who thinks this is OK, too.
The Illinois Policy Institute recently re-tested government website transparency in DuPage County’s York Township and released results last week.
Dubbed “The Local Transparency Project,” grades are based on the availability to the public of vital community information such as public meeting schedules, government employee salaries and tax rates. Since the project was launched by the Institute in February 2010, more than 160 government entities have been graded.
The government entities that scored above 80 percent were: DuPage County, Elmhurst School District 205, DuPage High School District 88 and the municipalities of Elmhurst, Hinsdale, Downers Grove and Lombard. The village of Lombard, in fact, maintained a score of 100 percent that initially awarded in May 2012.
Almost all of the websites gained points the second time around, and the top sites made such improvement as to suggest conscious responses to the first test.
And it’s not just about uploading content, but organizing it in such a way that it is easy to find.
The Village of Lombard website is tops for several reasons. Redundancy is one. For example, you can get to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) information and forms from both the “How Do I…?” menu on the front page, and via the “Online Forms by Department” menu. An “A-Z” index is also available, which is how I found out the village offers extra goodies for residents, such as a directory of local contractors who meet village requirements for insurance and so on. Read the rest of this entry
Rockford Register Star asked the question: When it comes to municipal electrical aggregation, what’s in it for the city?
City brokers deal with other municipalities, lands nearly $20 million in savings for area customers, hands over thousands of accounts and gets nothing in return?
Rockford’s Central Services Manager Carrie Eklund says that’s exactly what the city did when it decided to waive an administrative fee, a small amount that would be added onto everyone’s bill and funneled back to the city.
The state’s new electrical aggregation law allows cities to do it, Eklund said, and some have. But not Rockford.
“We are getting no compensation from this whatsoever,” she said. “The option was there, and we chose not to use it. We wanted to pass along all of the savings to our residents and small businesses.”
“Fee?” We need to get our terms straight. Read the rest of this entry
In a continuation of this story, Winnebago Forest Preserve District president Randy Olson has created and staffed a public safety job without the approval — and indeed in defiance of — a majority of the board.
And, it appears the move might even be legal:
Olson’s authorization of the hire is a rare move in the forest preserve district, but the Downstate Forest Preserve District Act appears to give him the power to do so: “The president of (the forest preserve board) shall have power to appoint such employees as may be necessary.”
That appears to conflict with the Winnebago County Forest Preserve’s bylaws, which says the president can make appointments “subject to confirmation by the board.” The board’s attorney has advised commissioners that state statutes trump local rules, Kalousek said.
Olson’s plan is an alternative to contracting with the Winnebago County Sheriff’s police for protection in the preserves. The problems, according to a memo written by four members of the board, are that Olson failed to make a case for his actions to the rest of the board, and that he improperly used a closed session meeting to try to get other board members to go along them.
The board could remove Olson as president, but would need to pick up a fifth vote to do so.
Four Winnebago Forest Preserve Board commissioners — a majority — are accusing the board president of misusing a closed session meeting in an attempt to create a new position. Chuck Sweeney examines the letter the commissioners sent to board president Randy Olson:
First, it says, “We believe the Board was placed in jeopardy by using ‘closed session’ to discuss the public safety coordinator; a matter other than that for which the meeting was closed. State law is very well defined on this; and if it were shared with staff and public it would most certainly be viewed as an abuse of closed session. It is in the best interest of the Board, as well as the public, to follow state law regarding closed sessions.”
See? Some boards do understand the Open Meetings Act and are willing to fight for it. Read the rest of this entry
Apparently this became a story when an employee of the Better Government Association looked up a salary at Open the Books, an online database of Illinois public employee and government financial information. Open the Books is a project of For the Good of Illinois, a good-government organization founded by former gubernatorial candidate Adam Andrzejewski. Vive la transperance!
Anywhoo, the Lyons Township Schools Treasurer’s Office “invests funds and manages payroll for 13 school districts and educational cooperatives in La Grange, Western Springs and Burr Ridge, as well as other towns,” explains the Sun Times.
The office is run by Treasurer Robert Healy. It has come to light that Mr. Healy took it upon himself to cash out his accumulated paid leave, and the total paid to himself came to more than $100,000.
The sum, along with Mr. Healy’s failure to inform the board of the payment, reportedly upset Edward Maloney, the president of the three-member board of trustees that oversees Mr. Healy’s office. Maloney, who coincidentally is running for a judgeship in Cook County, has since resigned “to allow for an independent investigation” of the cash-out that will determine whether Healy was entitled to such an accrual and whether he computed the total accurately.
“I don’t know if he did anything wrong or not,” Maloney said. “I felt very upset he did this without telling us. We don’t know if the hours he turned in were justified or not and what scale is he paying himself at. Were there vacation days earned in 2007 paid at a 2011 rate?”
I believe the answer to that would be, “DUH.” Read the rest of this entry